This is a guest post by Neil Farmer who is a director of Informal Networks Limited, specialists in ‘switching on’ organisational intelligence.
So far this year, thirteen new CIOs have been appointed in FTSE 100 companies. By the time you read this, the number will probably be higher.
Those CIOs with good listening skills and a sensitive political antenna will quickly spot the main issues: reducing costs, increasing business innovation, dealing with obvious skill problems and so on.
Scanning the surface
A natural and logical next step is to analyse the future business direction and carry out some form of IT capability review: is the current technology base right to meet future needs; do we have the right numbers of people with the right skills going forward; where are the gaps?
The end results of these capability reviews are a useful start but are inadequate. Where psychometrics are added to the mix, the outcomes often include more heat than light. Historical performance records on individuals add some insights but are often distorted by internal politics and are always backward looking.
Essentially, the new CIOs will, sooner or later, ask one very fundamental question: Who do I need to keep and develop to create a core of really good people for the future – and where do we still have significant gaps?
Diving below the surface
The first insight below the surface is that the working world is not just logical. Not just names, competencies and gaps: It’s full of inter-personal networks, natural leaders of different types and hidden capabilities. Formal IT managers (at all levels) can probably identify less than a third of them.
In times of change, humans look to their natural leaders rather than their formal managers. Who are the key influencers and where do they influence? Who do people go to when they need different types of technical or business advice or information? Who are the natural collaborators that can be relied on to link groups during big projects? Who keeps the energy levels of teams high through difficult periods? Which formal managers are influential with their staff and have developed effective teams? Which individuals have created informal networks that link different work groups? And of course: Which managers don’t merit a mention in any of the answers to these questions?
New CIOs who see the potential of these informal networks, as well as the logical capability reviews, are much more likely to make a big impact.